European (dis)Union

I don’t know whether I should be angry or amused or apathetic about this, from Britain’s Express:

European Union boss Jean-Claude Juncker [Thursday] afternoon issued a jaw-dropping threat to the United States, saying he could campaign to break up the country in revenge for Donald Trump’s supportive comments about Brexit.

In an extraordinary speech the EU Commission president said he would push for Ohio and Texas to split from the rest of America if the Republican president does not change his tune and become more supportive of the EU.

The remarks are diplomatic dynamite at a time when relations between Washington and Brussels are already strained over Europe’s meagre contributions to NATO and the US leader’s open preference for dealing with national governments.

They are by far the most outspoken intervention any senior EU figure has made about Mr Trump and are likely to dismay some European leaders who were hoping to seek a policy of rapprochement with their most important ally.

Speaking at the centre-right European People Party’s (EPP) annual conference in Malta this afternoon, the EU Commission boss did not hold back in his disdain for the White House chief’s eurosceptic views.

He said: “Brexit isn’t the end. A lot of people would like it that way, even people on another continent where the newly elected US President was happy that the Brexit was taking place and has asked other countries to do the same.

“If he goes on like that I am going to promote the independence of Ohio and Austin, Texas in the US.”

Mr Juncker’s comments did not appear to be made in jest and were delivered in a serious tone, although one journalist did report some “chuckles” in the audience and hinted the EU boss may have been joking. The remarks came in the middle of an angry speech in which the top eurocrat railed widely against critics of the EU Commission.

They will be seen as totally inexplicable at a time when EU-US relations appeared to be on the mend, with Vice-President Mike Pence having completed a largely successful trip to Brussels and the commander-in-chief himself significantly softening his tone towards the EU project.

Mr Juncker did not criticise Britain at all during his speech, and only made reference to Brexit in relation to Mr Trump and the opportunities it presents for Europe to reform itself.

He told the audience in Malta: “Brexit isn’t the end of everything. We must consider it to be a new beginning, something that is stronger, something that is better.”

Speaking before him, EU Council president Donald Tusk was less reserved in his remarks about the UK vote as he tore into the populist politics which led to Brexit.

The Polish eurocrat said the argument over sovereignty – epitomised by the Vote Leave slogan ‘take back control’ – was “a view that is both foolish and dangerous” and that the EU guaranteed countries’ strength of the world stage.

He also accused populist politicians, such as the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders and France’s Marine Le Pen, of promoting “organised hatred” with their views on immigration.

However his conservative colleague Antonio Tajani, the EU Parliament president, received a rapturous ovation as he launched an impassioned defence of Europe’s “Christian values”.

In a series of thinly veiled comments about immigration, a major political issue in his homeland and Malta, the Italian official said Europe should do more to defend its historic identity.

He said: “We shouldn’t be ashamed of saying we’re Christian. We’re Christian, it is our history.

“If we leave our identity we will have in Europe all identities but not European identities. For this we need to strengthen our identity.

“It is impossible to win without identity, without our values. Of course we are different, many languages, many ideas, but we are united on the values and this is the most important content.”

What is a bit jaw-dropping is Juncker’s ignorance of U.S. geography. Texas is a very red state. Ohio is a more purple state. Juncker could have easily said he wanted California and New York to secede and sounded less ignorant, given that most of Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote margin came from those two states.

More importantly: Who is Juncker? The always-accurate Wikipedia says of the EU president:

Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union, as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon, lays out the procedure for appointing the President and his team. The European Council votes by qualified majority for a nominee for the post of President, taking account of the latest European elections. This proposal is then put before Parliament which must approve or veto the appointment. If an absolute majority of MEPs support the nominee, he/she is elected. The President then, together with the Council, puts forward his team to the Parliament to be scrutinised. The Parliament normally insists that each one of them appear before the parliamentary committee that corresponds to their prospective portfolio for a public hearing. The Parliament then votes on the Commission as a whole and, if approved, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, appoints the President and his team to office.

Who is the European Council? Back to Wikipedia:

The European Council is an official institution of the EU, mentioned by the Lisbon Treaty as a body which “shall provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development”. Essentially it defines the EU’s policy agenda and has thus been considered to be the motor of European integration. Beyond the need to provide “impetus”, the Council has developed further roles: to “settle issues outstanding from discussions at a lower level”, to lead in foreign policy — acting externally as a “collective Head of State“, “formal ratification of important documents” and “involvement in the negotiation of the treaty changes“.

Since the institution is composed of national leaders, it gathers the executive power of the member states and has thus a great influence in high-profile policy areas as for example foreign policy. It also exercises powers of appointment, such as appointment of its own President, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the President of the European Central Bank. It proposes, to the European Parliament, a candidate for President of the European Commission.

What? European Commission? Wikipedia again:

The European Commission (EC) is an institution of the European Union, responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the EU. Commissioners swear an oath at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, pledging to respect the treaties and to be completely independent in carrying out their duties during their mandate.

The Commission operates as a cabinet government, with 28 members of the Commission (informally known as “commissioners”). There is one member per member state, but members are bound by their oath of office to represent the general interest of the EU as a whole rather than their home state. One of the 28 is the Commission President (currently Jean-Claude Juncker) proposed by the European Council and elected by the European Parliament. The Council of the European Union then nominates the other 27 members of the Commission in agreement with the nominated President, and the 28 members as a single body are then subject to a vote of approval by the European Parliament.

What? European Parliament? Wikipedia one more time:

The European Parliament (EP) is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union (EU). Together with the Council of the European Union (the Council) and the European Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU. The Parliament is composed of 751 (previously 766) members, who represent the second largest democratic electorate in the world (after the Parliament of India) and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world (375 million eligible voters in 2009). …

The Parliament and Council have been compared to the two chambers of a bicameral legislature. However, there are some differences from national legislatures; for example, neither the Parliament nor the Council have the power of legislative initiative (except for the fact that the Council has the power in some intergovernmental matters). In Community matters, this is a power uniquely reserved for the European Commission (the executive). Therefore, while Parliament can amend and reject legislation, to make a proposal for legislation, it needs the Commission to draft a bill before anything can become law.

This was what a majority of Great Britain’s voters elected to depart. You’ve heard the phrase that a camel is a horse made by committee.

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